Column: Giving Up TV Is No Real Sacrifice

Oct 26, 2008  •  Post A Comment

I got so used to watching TV via the Internet last week that I got sick of it. Yep, I was up to my eyeballs in television, to the point where I had to cut myself off for a day.
Let me explain.
After the first few days without cable or broadcast programming on the TV set, I got into a groove in my Internet-TV-only lifestyle. For starters, I bought a wire that connects my computer to the TV set so I can watch “The Office” via Hulu on my big screen. Then I checked out the “Saturday Night Live” sketches with Gov. Sarah Palin and Mark Wahlberg on my PC—no need for broadcast TV there. (Say hi to your mother for me.) I even convinced myself that “Grey’s Anatomy” releases new episodes on Fridays (new episodes actually premiere Thursdays on-air), so when I watch the show online on Friday nights, it feels fresh.
After all that, I got fed up with TV. By the middle of last week I’d consumed too much TV online—“The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” YouTube clips, Web-only shows, “Countdown With Keith Olbermann,” “The Office,” “Grey’s Anatomy”—that I declared a 24-hour TV moratorium.
I bring this up because I believe my TV overdose underscores that the Internet can indeed be a reasonable facsimile for traditional TV. You can watch nearly all the same shows, you can access most of the water-cooler clips and you can stay current on news, events and the hottest prime-time shows via the Web. As long as you set your own internal DVR—Repeat after me: “‘Grey’s’ is on Fridays”—you can still watch much the same programs online as you did on-air. Which means you can still get a bellyache if you overeat. True, I might be suffering from election news overload, but my Internet TV pig-out is evidence that cord-cutting works so well you can gorge yourself on too much TV over the Web.
Even so, a number of issues still bedevil the Internet-only lifestyle. I spoke to Josh Lovison, a gaming consultant at the IPG Emerging Media Lab at the media agency Initiative. He tried to cut the cord and contends the Internet isn’t ready yet. Here’s why.
1. Not enough hi-def. Mr. Lovison likes high-quality hi-def shows. “In terms of quality, Blu-ray is at the top, then it goes down to probably an HD digital purchase, then to TV broadcast, and finally down to online streaming,” he said. “For online streaming, it just isn’t there yet where an ad-supported Hulu in hi-def model would be able to win me over. Though once it is there, that would be incredibly neat.”
2. Not enough shows. Finding all the shows you want in one place is still tough. You have to bounce around from iTunes to Hulu to various network sites to find the shows.
3. Not low-cost enough. With cable bundling, the pricing for the triple play goes way down, making cable relatively affordable, Mr. Lovison said. “I get my Internet and phone from Time Warner, so my cable package is really only about $30 a month when considered in the bundle. That’s about two-thirds a season of a show a la carte,” he said.
Despite those drawbacks, Mr. Lovison said he’s getting closer to kissing his cable subscription goodbye. Are you ready to take the plunge with me? C’mon, jump in. The water’s nice.

37 Comments

  1. Cupcake -
    Wait to you run out of decent programming to watch on services like Hulu. I wish I received a dollar for every notice from
    Hulu indicating that they will be removing
    different show episodes.
    You’ll come running back to TV like everybody else.

  2. OMG….so smug. Let me ask you a question? How are your viewing options for NFL football? The local sports teams like the Mets, Yanks, Knicks, Rangers, Nets…..or any city in the country?
    What if the episode you want to watch sucks, and you want to watch whats on the other channels….or you can’t?
    What if you want to watch soccer like I do? Hours of it on four different channels? Can you do that with your new configuration?
    What if the internet had been invented first and then TV came out? Do you think people would be clammoring for the internet?
    Give me a break. The two are not even remotely close.

  3. Mr. Lovison glosses over an important point when talking about quality. l-Blue-ray, 2-an HD purchase possibly, 3-Broadcast TV, THEN it goes down hill fast. He omits 4-Cable, 5-Direct and Dish TV, and maybe streaming video will come in at 10 if you’re lucky. And what is this business of giving up TV anyway? Isn’t the name of the publication “Television Week”?

  4. There is also the fact that some of the ‘guilty pleasures’ that we all watch — “Cheaters”, “Snapped” and “Divorce Court” to name three — aren’t easily available through legal sources (or, for that matter, through the torrents and Rapidshare servers). It’s easy to get one’s hands on “True Blood” or “Dexter”, but the more esoteric stuff isn’t available, largely because they are originally broadcast on smaller cable outlets such as Oxygen or, as in the case of “Cheaters”, syndicated (often by small independents) and are not considered online-worthy.
    The best example may be “Who’s Wedding Is It Anyway” on the Style Channel. My fiancee watches it religiously. But it isn’t streamed online. And it’s not easily available illegally either. My fiancee wouldn’t even think of throwing out the TV if she can’t get her fix.
    Going online only sounds great. But it only sounds great.

  5. I love my tv. I like my laptop but LOVE my tv. The heat my tv gives off doesn’t make me feel weird the way my computer does. I can’t speed through commercials on my laptop the way I can with my DVR. I can’t watch the news in French, Polish & Italian on my laptop. Most important I don’t have to overnight my arm in a carpal tunnel splint after a DVR binge.

  6. I work in TV, and I’m about ready to give up on it. I pay for internet, but there’s no way in hell I’d pay for the garbage on TV. Not these days. There’s only one thing nowadays TV is good for: LIVE SPORTS. Anything else worth watching can be had on the internet, legally or not (if you look hard enough).

  7. Hi there:
    Thanks for reading and for your comments. Yes, the publication is TelevisionWeek and I am not giving up TV — I am just getting it over the Internet. Yes, the Internet does not offer a complete replica of cable and satellite programming, but for my purposes it’s working well enough. Many consumers are starting to cut the cord, so we at TVWeek like to walk the walk and talk the talk — that’s the point of the test. We want to report on how it feels to go without cable service and just get TV on the ‘net as many more consumers are doing. Sports are tough online — I don’t watch many. That’s why the experiment was worked so far for me. It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.
    Daisy

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